Two swings back in wind battle

What was meant to be a symbolic step to halt wind turbines in Ontario has backfired on a local Scarborough community.

After city hall rejected the motion to place a moratorium on new wind turbines, Toronto will now do the opposite – promote wind power in the city with fervor.

Monday’s executive committee meeting ended in a unanimous vote against the moratorium proposed by Ward 43 Coun. Paul Ainslie .

Instead, the committee passed an alternative motion on how the city will “promote, support and nurture” green energy projects, including offshore wind turbines.

“This is a grand slam home run for people who support wind power,” said Ward 38 Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker, who put the alternative motion forward.

But not everyone agrees. The Guildwood community, who will be facing the proposed 60 wind turbines off the Scarborough Bluff’s shoreline, are in an uproar over the decision.

“The Scarborough Bluffs is like a tourist area and when they put these wind turbines up, they’ll be spoiled,” said John Stehmann, a Guildwood community member.

With Stehmann’s backyard overlooking the shoreline, he says he’s concerned not only about the view but about noise pollution.

“If I can hear a party across the Bluffer’s Park, then imagine what the wind turbines will be like to live near every day,” he said.

The major concern from community members is that the noise from wind turbines will affect their health. The mayor says there is no such health affects.

“It’s quite clear from all of the studies around the world that there are no negative impacts from wind turbines,” said Mayor David Miller.

The city and Toronto Hydro do support further studies into some of the other issues raised, such as the health of fish habitats during construction.

But the mayor was not in favor of the wind moratorium on Monday, he says because his hands are tied, as it’s a province-wide initiative.

John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, disagrees.

“City hall does need to take responsibly,” said Laforet, who is running in the elections for Ainslie’s ward. “They own Toronto Hydro. They own this project. And they’ll own any damage they do as well.”

His concern is the proposed turbines are too close to the shore. A safe limit is 10 kilometers offshore while the Bluff’s turbines are planned for two to four km offshore, and this could adversely affect the community, he says.

“Nowhere in the world would you get away with building this, so why are we doing this here.”

But De Baeremaeker says the fears associated with turbines are simply unfounded.

“We have a wind turbine right in the heart of the city and we haven’t had any reports of noise or vibrations making people sick – not a single one,” he said.

“People seem to forget that the real threat is burning fossil fuels (like coal and oil) that is harming our very existence on this planet. Wind is not the enemy.”

Province-wide, Ontario plans to close its five remaining coal plants by 2014 and re-power more than half Ontario’s home with renewable energy projects like the Bluff’s turbines. Currently, there are nearly 50 new wind turbine projects planned across Ontario.

McGuinty promises the new energy from wind, solar and hydro will provide 20,000 new jobs and $9 billion in private investment.

However, some communities are banning together in protest of wind power projects.

Wind Concerns Ontario will be staging a demonstration with 50 municipalities in front of Queen’s Park on April 28.